Stuff I Found

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

How to make space pictures

Here's a pretty cool article from Wired describing how one "space photographer" creates his space photos, showing how you too can create mind-blowing photos with just time and a few $10,000's of dollars. I found the process to be very interesting, and the results will have you seeing stars.

I only take issue with one thing: this quote:

So, we live in a golden age for space photos, but looking at the technicolor images of what appears to the naked eye to be a fairly bland sky, we find ourselves asking: Does it really look like that?

As we find in this behind-the-scenes look at the making of a mind-blowing space photo, the answer is yes — but just not to your eyes, which are pretty poor sensors, compared with purpose-built astrophotographic equipment.

But that doesn’t mean the photos aren’t "real." Most astrophotographers have an ethic: They won’t add color or lasso just a part of an image for editing. They can only bring things out of the data, not add them. The photos are often processed in Photoshop, but what they do is the opposite of falsifying the visual record. Astrophotographers are using digital-editing tools to find the truth in the noisy data that are the heavens.

Uh... no. "Color" is a qualia, something that only exists because we perceive it. You can't say: "Oh, yes, space is very colorful! We just can't see it." Well, if we can't see it, then it isn't there. If you're using filters to bring out colors, it doesn't matter that your not using Photoshop. You're still creating an unrealistic photograph.

That said, there's nothing wrong with an unrealistic space photo. Just don't defend them as "real." You can't see it with the naked eye. It's not real.


  • colour is frequency of lightwave undulation?

    By Blogger Luke Anthony, at 7:56 PM  

  • well, the *perception* of that...

    By Blogger Sean Hannifin, at 9:31 PM  

  • Well, then colours are still discrete units with separate values, aren't they? Anyway, probably not the salient point of either the article or your commentary

    By Blogger Luke Anthony, at 7:41 AM  

  • Whether they're discrete or not depends on if we see them as discrete... you could have a shade of red here and a shade of red there and they might be different light frequencies but be so close that we don't see the difference.

    There are also plenty of color optical illusions proving that our perception of color is not caused entirely by light frequency. Such as if you stare a green light for 15-30 seconds, then look a white wall, you can see the color red.

    One could actually say that *all* photography is false-colored, because colors are recorded (or not) in ways different than our eyes. But most unedited photography attempts to stay pretty close. Space photography purposefully does *not* stay close, because we don't see colorful nebulae when looking at the sky. The photos look amazing, but I wouldn't call them realistic, color-wise.

    By Blogger Sean Hannifin, at 3:20 PM  

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